I don’t know who was happier to be out hiking that beautiful autumn day, my dogs—Sophie, a nine-year-old white standard poodle, and Tex, a five-year-old parti-color miniature poodle—or me.
We were out in the Sierra foothills on one of our favorite trails, by Feather Falls, the sixth highest waterfall in America. A mile down a wooded canyon to a creek, then two miles back up to where I had parked the car. A good, vigorous hike.
We were almost to the creek when a squirrel darted across the trail and into the trees. Sophie bolted into the canyon, hard on the scent of her elusive prey. The chase was on!
Sophie loved going after squirrels. Not that she ever caught one, but she kept hoping. I had to admire her spirit. Tex looked up at me as if wondering whether or not to follow.
“You stay here,” I said. “She’ll be back soon.”
I knew the routine. In a few minutes, Sophie would admit defeat, pop up on the trail again and trot back to my side.
But 15 minutes went by and she wasn’t back. I peered down into the canyon. The brush and fallen trees were too thick to see through. “Sophie!” I called, then paused, listening for an answering bark or rustling in the brush.